My initial reaction on learning of this release was mixed. With the dearth of new recordings issued by the major labels, did we really need another recording of the Brahms concerto, especially as it is not so long since we had the Znaider accompanied by the VPO under Gergiev? Granted that every virtuoso violinist wants to put his stamp on this colossus of the repertoire, but surely with so many great recordings already available we did not need another? Furthermore, I was less than impressed with Daniel Harding's first outing with this great orchestra, my own personal favourite, finding his Mahler 10 beautiful but bland.
The mitigating factor was the coupling of the Berg, recorded at last with the VPO, and so I gave in to temptation.
All reservations were swept aside from the opening bars! I'll waste no time in asserting that this disc is exquisite!
I believe we are entering new territory in that this recording is made for EMI by ORF, using their own "Funkhaus" now rechristened the "Radiokulturhaus" as the venue for the recording, rather than the expected Musikverein or Konzerthaus. More often the venue for the Wien RSO , this Art Deco style building in Weiden encompasses a complex of studios of various sizes much in the manner of Maida Vale for the BBC, but also includes a medium sized concert hall with abundant wood panelling, a tiered platform all very reminiscent of an Odeon cinema of the 1930's-and superb acoustics!!.
The sonic results are amazing-all the warmth and richness of the orchestra is captured with plenty of airy headroom, and yet detail is revealed forensically as perhaps never before. If this is the start of a new series of recordings featuring this orchestra in this venue---then give me more of it!
I heartily applaud the decision to juxtapose these 2 works on one recording-lovers of either work will be delighted, and hopefully those who might shy away from the Berg will be tempted by the Brahms-and if any conversions are likely to be made, it will be by this most romantic of all performances of the Berg.
However, we begin with the Brahms. In the concise but excellent booklet, Capuçon pays tribute the classic 1950's recording of the Brahms by Christian Ferras with the VPO under Schuricht-and it is indeed Ferras who is brought to mind in the poised, elegant playing by this young virtuoso, with exquisite beauty of tone while never allowing the playing to become syrupy.
Daniel Lane drives the orchestra forward in perfectly judged tempi in collaboration with his soloist, and the return of the Kreisler cadenza in favour of the Joachim makes a welcome change, especially when accomplished so effectively. I will go so far as to assert that there is no finer modern account of this work available, either in terms of artistry or recording.
I am hard put to not assert the same for the Berg! Having recently extolled the virtues of the reissued Kremer/Davis/BRSO recording, I did not expect to find myself praising another version even higher, but such is the case!
The sensitivity with which both violinist and conductor takes us through this masterpiece is breathtaking-literally-for I held my breath through much of it on first playing, I was so transfixed. Never have I heard so much inner detail revealed-the Austrian Folk Melody in the first movement clearly uncovered and found to be as affecting as the Bach quotation in the second. The concerto sums up Berg's reaction to the death of Manon Gropius of course. The orchestra is entirely at home in this idiom, and the angry , frustrated outbursts railing against the injustice of one so young being taken from us which open and feature in the second movement are played with tremendous weight, the tam tam and are percussive effects clearly audible, in no small measure thanks to the acoustic.
The glossy presentation is beautiful, and this disc must now be a top recommendation for either work-and as a combination is unchallenged.
Just exquisite! Unlimited Stars. Stewart Crowe.